The Pursuit of Worldliness

Ideas and essays on the state of humanity
and other futile gestures

Barry Edelson

"Maybe I think too much for my own good
Some people say so
Other people say no no
The fact is
You don't think as much as you could"

— Paul Simon

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An Abject Failure

America's crisis of liberty. (Read)

July 9, 2022

The Moral Injury

They also suffer wounds who stand and wait. (Read)

March 14, 2022

All The King's Horses and All the King's Men

The never-ending calamity of 9/11. (Read)

September 7, 2021

A Mob of One

A very special kind of cowardice is reserved for mobs. (Read)

January 10, 2021


There Will Be No Reckoning Here

The America we thought we knew no longer exists, if it ever did. (Read)

November 22, 2020

A Prison is Also a Refuge

History teaches that racial progress is neither inevitable nor necessarily sustainable. (Read)

August 17, 2020


It is painful to acknowledge, but most of the work that people do has no fundamental value. (Read)

April 25, 2020

The Fever in Our Minds

It is not a virus that kills, but our bodies' response to it. The same holds true for civilizations. (Read)

March 21, 2020

The Last Refuge

Are we at risk of losing the unique American character that was made by immigrants? (Read)

February 20, 2020

The Wages of Spin

The narrative impulse is indifferent to the truth. (Read)

January 18, 2020


The Chronic vs. the Acute

Why do we overreact to alarming but rare risks while ignoring mundane but likelier ones? (Read)

December 11, 2019

To Be Human

The outrage sparked by a judge hugging a defendant says a lot about what is wrong with the country right now. (Read)

October 15, 2019


The Las Vegas shooting and the persistence of memory. (Read)

July 5, 2019


A visit to natural wonders of the West reminds us of the impermanence of all things, natural and man-made. (Read)

May 12, 2019

There's a Hole in the Middle of the World

Of black holes, out there and right here. (Read)

April 14, 2019

The Ignorance of the Lambs

A perpetual struggle against the know-nothings. (Read)

March 5, 2019

There Will Always Be Some Sort of England

The Brexit debacle and the inexorable decline of a once-mighty empire. (Read)

February 2, 2019

The Extraordinary Ordinary Life

What can happen to society when fame becomes the primary goal for millions of people. (Read)

January 12, 2019


The Other

We have met the enemy and he is us. (Read)

November 18, 2018

The Peaceable Kingdom

The Oasis

Humanity's inclination to seek refuge, even when the security it provides is illusory, is rooted in our fundamental natures. (Read)

August 8, 2018

Does It Matter Whose Child?

Our claims to care for the well-being of children are belied by the reality of their frequent mistreatment. (Read)

July 8, 2018

A Gilded Cage

Security must not be an end in itself. (Read)

April 15, 2018

The Great Migration

Something there is that doesn't love a migrant. (Read)

February 24, 2018


Sad, Distracted Year

The end of civilization as we know it is not the end of civilization. (Read)

December 29, 2017

The End of Labor As We Know It

As automation claims more and more occupations, what are workers supposed to do? (Read)

September 4, 2017

The Poisoned Well

For good and (mostly) ill, the Internet has returned mankind to its small town roots. (Read)

July 29, 2017

A True Healer

Dr. John Sarno defied conventional medical wisdom, and cured many thousands of patients in the process. (Read)

June 29, 2017

Images of Unknown Japan

How does the new Japan co-exist with the old Japan? (Read)

April 30, 2017

To the Victim Go the Spoils

We are living through yet another cycle of American paranoia, with white victimhood in the ascendant. (Read)

March 21, 2017


Everything on the Internet Is a Lie

If you pay nothing for news, you get what you pay for. (Read)

December 31, 2016

Red and Blue

Divide, Decline and Fall

We have much bigger problems than just the election. (Read)

December 3, 2016

Cry, the Beloved Country

How many Americans, after watching the presidential "debate" on Sunday, October 9, felt an urgent need to take a shower? (Read)

October 10, 2016

The Coarsening

Of all the legacies left by Muhammad Ali, his obnoxious attitude may prove the most lasting, and most harmful. (Read)

June 12, 2016

Incoherence: A Guide

Some wisdom from the ages, to help cope with the current political climate. (Read)

June 5, 2016

The Last King of Education

The appointment of a proven incompetent as education secretary has a lot to say about what's wrong with government. (Read)

March 16, 2016

The War on Government: An Update

The dying towns of Maine, the water in Flint, and the Oregon standoff. (Read)

January 24, 2016

The Fine Print

Miscellaneous legal maneuvers that may or may not be related. (Read)

January 2, 2016


It's Everyone's War Now

Those are our colors, too. (Read)

November 23, 2015

The Day the (Classical) Music Died

If no one wants to hear the music that's being written, how will classical music survive? (Read)

April 25, 2015

The Struggle for Civilization

If we don't have the stomach for war, we had better have the stomach for an unending stream of atrocities. (Read)

February 22, 2015


The Music Lesson

The Unknowable World

Our limited perspective limits our understanding of everything, even our understanding of our own limitations. (Read)

December 22, 2014

Nothing Happened, This Time

Zero tolerance works for Ebola, but not much else. (Read)

November 29, 2014

The Weather is Nigh

Why do weather forecasts turn us into blithering idiots? (Read)

November 16, 2014

A Vote of No Confidence

Our choices on Election Day weren't always so pitiful. (Read)

November 2, 2014

Defenders of the Faith

The courts ought to reject most cases involving religious freedom. (Read)

October 11, 2014

Go to Jail. Go Directly to Jail.

Term limits are not enough. We need mandatory sentences for politicians. (Read)

September 12, 2014

'On Ne Passe Pas'

The unlearnable lessons of World War I. (Read)

August 18, 2014

Preserve, Protect and Defend

The government's relentless assault on privacy. (Read)

July 16, 2014

The World According to Baba

Barbara Walters' contribution to the decline of journalism. (Read)

June 14, 2014

Thugs vs. Thugs

Why must we always take sides in the fights of other nations? (Read)

June 1, 2014

Use Your Vote or Lose It

When citizens disenfranchise themselves. (Read)

May 29, 2014

Decline Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Sardinia and the pleasures of living. (Read)

May 11, 2014

Not Us

Nationalism: the beginning of the end of nations. (Read)

March 30, 2014

Just One Big Unhappy Family

Genetics shows that we are all related. And? (Read)

March 2, 2014

A Hard Pill to Swallow

Big Pharma and the failure of government regulation. (Read)

January 25, 2014



"Bah Humbug" vs. "God Bless Us, Every One"

Where is the Christmas spirit the rest of the year? (Read)

December 24, 2013


Class Inaction

The first step in eliminating class distinctions in America is to admit we have them. (Read)

December 15, 2013

What is True

Mistaken notions, conspiracy theories and just plain lies. (Read)

November 24, 2013

When Institutions Die

The sad demise of New York City Opera. (Read)

October 6, 2013

Bad News

Strong echoes of Paddy Chayefsky's "Network" in Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom". (Read)

August 24, 2013

A Rising Tide Swamps Many Boats

George Packer's The Unwinding documents the death of the American middle class. (Read)

July 29, 2013

Before We Bury Mr. Snowden

There are vital points to be made about America's secret surveillance of its citizens, but Edward Snowden is blowing the chance to make them. (Read)

June 26, 2013

Divided We Stand

An amicable divorce could leave all Americans in the country they truly desire. (Read)

May 25, 2013

It's a Man's World

And if Sheryl Sandberg has her way, it always will be. (Read)

April 27, 2013

Enemies of Civilization

We know who they are; now let's prosecute them. (Read)

March 23, 2013


Shepherd v. Farmer

An altogether new reading of scripture. (Read)

February 3, 2013


Notes from a Disaster Zone

Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. (Read)

November 25, 2012

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M O R E    T O    R E A D :

How to Destroy Public Education
in Four Easy Steps

Last Supper
Why We Believe

tres de mayo
Why It Exists, Who Has It,
How It Affects Everything

Cruel Jokes:
10 Reasons Why We Are So Confused


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Notes from a Disaster Zone

The Expendable Girl

Play By the Rules, and Lose

How to Destroy Public Education in Four Easy Steps

The Unbearable Weight of Collective Responsibility

"The Unemployed Need Not Apply"

The Inescapable Past

DNA is Destiny — Or Not

Personhood: Are Corporations and Churches People, Too?

The Old Man's (Debt) Burden

"Your Call Is Very Important to Us"

Justice: Neither Blind nor Just

Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?

The Internet and the Price of Instant Gratification

In Concert: Music, A Question without an Answer

Keep Your Church's Hands Off My Government

Begging the King's Pardon

The Strange & Sensational World of Murakami

The Book of Mammon


The Despot, the Dissident and the Doubter

Why I Don't Watch Football Any More

Children of Paradise: A Future of Poverty

…and Multiply, and Multiply…

Zuccotti Park: The Occupation of Nowhere

Post-Mortem: Put Our Dead Enemies on Trial

The Murder of an Immigrant: Not in Our Country

A Hymn to the Traffic Circle

September 11: No Choice But to Remember

The Poisoned Land: "Silent Spring" Revisited

The Psychopath Next Door

The Puck Stops Here: Public Dollars for Private Profit

The Tabloids Reign Supreme

Realism Defined: The Overlooked Novels of John Williams

Democracy by Lawsuit

The Puritans Win Again

The Unchanging Face of Woody Allen

Portents of Doom: The Media's Obsession with Idiots and Charlatans

The Limits of Music

The Death of Bin Laden:
The Tighter the Grip, the Looser the Grasp

American Birthright

Rand Panned

On Ideological Divides: Letting the Side Down

Andrew Cuomo, Republican

Japan's Nuclear Crisis: Courting Disaster

The King's Overreach

Little Orphan Fannie

The Intolerable Enormity

What Can the Movies Tell Us About Ourselves?

History Matters

The End of Journalism as We Knew It

The Tucson Massare: When There is Nothing to Say, Say Nothing


It's the Sun Belt, Stupid:
Why American civilization is in decline

Corporate Gas vs. Government Gas

Divided and Conquered:
How the powerful stay that way

The Sexual Revolution is Here to Stay

Dear Mayor Bloomberg: Hire Me, Too

Hail Tina Brown, Queen of the Zeitgeist

Bach vs. Microsoft

Be Careful What You Wish For:
Everyone asks too much of government

Mining's Never-Ending Disaster

Disgraced Unto Death

"It's a Free Country"

The Lost Message

Throw the Bums Out:
Every member of the NY Legislature deserves to lose

NEWS FLASH: France and Germany on Verge of War (Again)?

On Racism: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

In the Distance, Strains of Harmony

Go Ahead, Have a Party:
And if you win the election, you're the government

Does the Shoe Still Fit?
The fall and rise of Imelda Marcos

The Fear This Time

A Modest Proposal on Immigration

Capitalism's Big Lie

Bad Things Happen

One Man's Freedom is Another's Socialist Dictatorship

The Illusion of Progress

Chariots of Perspire

Feeling Small: A Visit to Kitt Peak Observatory

Miep Gies and the Paradox of Heroism

The End of Privacy as We Know It


Climate Follies

The Dangers of Certitude

"The Taliban Could Not Be Reached for Comment":
What's gone wrong with American journalism?

The Resumption of History: Eastern Europe 20 Years After the Fall

The Case for War in Afghanistan

Communism is Dead, But Tyranny Marches Merrily On

Love of Labor Lost

The Summer of Hate: American Populism Rises Anew

On the Perils of Home Schooling

The Strange, Sad Case of Michael Jackson

Do You Still NY?

The Tangled Ethics of Abortion

Justice Denied

A More Fitting Tribute for Our War Dead

Who's Afraid of a Little Flu?

Texas Wants to Secede? Okay, Bye

The Pedants are Revolting: Why Conservatism is Almost Always Wrong

WANTED: For Crimes Against Humanity

Our Bankers, Ourselves

Bipartisanship Can Wait

Take This Job: Why Most Human Activity is Fundamentally Useless

The Governor is a Fruitcake

Is America a Corrupt Country?

Lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malpractice: How Economics Has Nearly Destroyed Medicine


A Nice Jewish Boy: Madoff and His Chosen People

Crash: Fire All the Auto Executives

Hamdan is Free. What About Us?

Of Steeples and the Abyss: The Novels of Marilynne Robinson

A Victory for the Ages: Obama's Moment

Great Men Hiding Everywhere
And Other Thoughts on the 2008 Election

No Bailout, Please — We're Americans

Can We Vote Now PLEASE?

The Myth of the Efficient Capitalist Marketplace

The Rockies May Crumble: The Pine Beetle Catastrophe

Supreme Hypocrisy: The High Court's Political Masters

Great Expectations: The Strange Graduation Ritual

The Mask Cracks, a Little: China's Grip Slips

Government Should Get Out of the Marriage Business

White Women Can't Jump. Or Wear Pants.

"Carrier": The Human Face of Our People in Uniform

Spring Awakening? Maybe a Shift in Race Relations

Torch Song Threnody: What Are the Olympics For, Anyway?

The Pageant of Human Depravity: An Adverse Commentary

It Should Happen to You: The Perils of a Celebrity Culture.

The Search for Intelligent Talk In America

Who's Afraid of the Dark?

Goodbye Mr. Clean: Ho Hum, Another Corrupt Politician

Flying Blind: The Miserable Airlines

Tragedy Without End: Guns and the Death of Children

Pity and Futility in the World's Most Intractable Conflict

Italian Misgovernment: A Cautionary Tale for Nation Builders

Don't Let Your Kids Grow Up to Be Sports Stars

Defining Presidency Down


200 Lashes: The Degradation of Muslim Women

"And Liberty for Me":
Religious Bigotry Masquerading as Openmindedness

Music, Dead and Alive: Perhaps It's Best to Listen Alone

Why Does Russia Vote?

The Executioner's Hack: Good Riddance to Norman Mailer

On the God Debates:
Why Harris is Wrong and Hitchens is Right

The Dog Ate My Heart

A Near-Life Experience

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All writings on this site are copyrighted by Barry Edelson. Reprinting by permission only.

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